In the 1910’s, cars, passenger trains, freight trains, electric street trolleys, and even motorcycles all vied for their share of the street. There were no organized parking rules.
As many as SIX sets of tracks severely constricted parking. First there was (#1) the main railroad line from Boston to Lincoln – the only tracks still present today. Two sidings (#2 & #3) directly in the center of town allowed freight or passenger cars to idle while the main train passed by. As one entered Weirs Beach from the South, a freight spur (#4) (see below) descended underneath the railroad station to a freight house, from where freight was transfered directly to the lake steamers of the time.
By the late 1940’s the sidings had finally been removed in the center of town. With only the single, passenger set of railroad tracks remaining, cars began parking in a denser pattern. On the East (Lake) side of Lakeside Avenue, double parking was allowed, with one set of cars parking perpendicular to the curb, and another parking right behind at an angle. (Presumably there was an attendant nearby to juggle cars as neccessary.) On the West (Land) side of Lakeside Avenue, cars parked at an angle to the street. With heavy demand for parking, and commercial and public parking lots in the area yet to be developed, the front lawn of the Half Moon Cabins was often drafted into use as a commercial parking lot. (Howard Ballou, the owner at the time, advertised in a 1950 Lakes Region Association brochure not only “19 Modern Cabins” but also “Parking for 175 cars”.) The photo below was taken September 14, 1947.
The following year, in 1948, one of the strangest looking parking arrangements yet began in late June. On both sides of Lakeside Avenue, one row of cars parked parallel to the curb, while another row of cars parked at an angle to the center of the street. The Laconia Evening Citizen newspaper reported that “…the new parking regulations…will provide spaces for approximately 80 more cars than can be parked at present.” The front lawn of the Half Moon Cabins continued to double as a commercial parking lot. The photo below was taken circa 1950.
Additionally, at the behest of businessman Sidney Ames, owner of the Half Moon, the City of Laconia added parking meters in 1956 in an effort to keep parking spaces turning over and customers flowing into the area. The Laconia City Council’s unanimous vote to add meters, on May 24, 1956, was supported by numerous area businessman, including notably, James R. Irwin, but was opposed by about 40 Weirs residents, who felt the meters were “unnecessary and unlikely to solve the traffic problem.”
(Parking meters had first arrived in downtown Laconia and Lakeport during the summer of 1947, following the signing of a contract on April 14th with the Duncan Meter Corporation of Chicago, maker of the Miller meter. In 1947, the cost to park downtown was 5¢ an hour. The downtown meters lasted 25 years. They were gone by the end of 1972, about a year after the Laconia Retail Merchants Association had first requested their removal. In 2022, parking is still free in downtown Laconia, although after 50 years, there are now plans to reintroduce paid parking.)